Back in November 2010, the Pittsburgh City Council took a courageous stand: for people’s health and well being; against the natural gas “fracking” industry pumping toxic chemicals into the ground that will contaminate drinking water.
In his speech supporting the Council’s resolution banning “fracking” within Pittsburgh city limits, council member Douglas Shields stated the issue powerfully, asking “Why is it that this industry is absolved from all culpability, all liability, all laws that are applying to the rest of us?” Shields pointed out that fracking operations “denigrate the value of their land, denigrate the health of themselves and their families and children; we see people now with benzene in their blood tests, in their lungs.” Shields added that fracking operations have “denigrated and poisoned people’s wells and have contributed to health problems in those communities,” while the industry simply throws out the line “jobs and money, jobs and money” over and over again, “without having done a health risk assessment of what their industry does to cause us harm, without doing any kind of environmental impact.”
Given all those problems, you’d think that “fracking” wouldn’t be growing by leaps and bounds in this country, yet it most certainly is doing just that. What’s behind the huge push for “fracking” by the natural gas industry? Simple: profits, and lots of them. In addition, there are the politicians who stand idly by and do nothing, whether because they’re on the take from the industry, they’re afraid of the industry, or because they simply don’t know any better.
Now, the battle over “fracking” has come to Congress. As ProPublica explained in its recent article, “Opponents to Fracking Disclosure Take Big Money From Industry,” a proposal to require “frackers” to fully report which chemicals they’re using on public lands is being opposed by a the natural gas industry, and also by the members of Congress the natural gas industry has essentially bought with huge donations.
According to ProPublica, “the Natural Gas Caucus received 19 times more money from the oil and gas industry between 2009 and 2010 than the group who signed Rep. Hinchey’s letter [urging Interior Secretary Salazar to adopt the disclosure requirements].
How much money are we talking about? About $1.7 million to the “Natural Gas Caucus” from the oil and gas industry in 2009-2010 alone, including $202,500 to Rep. Tim Murphy (R-PA) , $132,100 to Rep. Mike Conaway (R-TX), $124,800 to Rep. John Sullivan (R-OK), and $96,350 to Rep. Dan Boren (D-OK). In short, the natural gas industry is fracking Congress, not with benzene but with cold, hard cash. To put it mildly, that’s not the way government of the people, by the people, and for the people is supposed to work.